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Wichita Wingnuts Game Notes - August 14th, 2013

August 14, 2013 - American Association (AA) Wichita Wingnuts

WINGNUTS AND RAILCATS POSTPONED: The Wichita Wingnuts and Gary SouthShore RailCats were postponed Tuesday evening due to inclement weather. The teams will play a double header today beginning at 5:05 p.m. Both games are scheduled for seven innings. It is the fourth double header for the Wingnuts this season and the second against the RailCats. The teams played a day/night double header at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on June 18th in which the RailCats won both ends. The Wingnuts' team record for double headers in one season is six, set during the team's inaugural year in 2008.

WINGNUTS CLOSE SUCCESSFUL TRIP WITH WIN: The Wichita Wingnuts beat the Can-Am League's New Jersey Jackals 7-5 on Sunday afternoon at Yogi Berra Stadium in the rubber match of a three-game series. Wichita scored three times in the top of the sixth inning to take a 6-3 lead, highlighted by RBI hits from Jared McDonald and Jonathan Davis. After New Jersey scored two in the bottom of the sixth, McDonald hit a solo home run in the top of the eighth to give the Wingnuts some insurance. McDonald finished with three hits, three runs, and three RBI in the win. Josh Stone earned the win, allowing five earned runs on eight hits in 5.1 IP. Nick Walters, Daniel Bennett, Lincoln Holdzkom, and Josh Dew combined for 3.2 scoreless relief innings. Dew earned his 21st save of the year, setting a new Wingnuts' single-season record. The Wingnuts finished their annual NBC road trip 11-5 (.688), and posted a winning record on the trip for a fifth straight season under manager Kevin Hooper.

ALL-TIME AGAINST THE RAILCATS: The Wingnuts are 13-9 all-time against the Gary SouthShore RailCats, including a 7-3 mark at Lawrence- Dumont Stadium. Gary SouthShore joined the American Association in 2011 after spending the previous nine seasons in the Northern League. RailCats' manager Greg Tagert is in his ninth season. Tagert guided the RailCats to the playoffs in each of his first six years, and won Northern League Championships in 2005 and 2007. Tagert was named Northern League Manager of the Year in 2007 and 2009. Tagert entered 2013 with an 844-685 (.552) career managerial record, which includes nine years of service in the Frontier League. Tagert has never had a losing season in any of his 17 years as a professional manager and holds the Frontier League record for all-time wins. The Wingnuts and RailCats battled neck and neck for the 2011 Central Division title with the Wingnuts clinching the division by 1.0 game on the final day of the regular season. Wichita swept a key, three-game series from the RailCats at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in late-August of that year. The sweep vaulted the Wingnuts into first place for the remainder of the season. US Steel Yard opened in 2003 after the RailCats were forced to play their inaugural season exclusively on the road. Mike Massaro, the American Association's all-time leader in triples, returns for a fifth season with the RailCats.

SERIES MATCHUP: The Wingnuts are 55-26 and lead the Gary SouthShore RailCats by 8.5 games in the Central Division. The Wingnuts took two of the three from the Can-Am League's New Jersey Jackals last weekend. The RailCats are 46-34 and trail the Wingnuts by 8.5 games in the Central. The RailCats lead the Lincoln Saltdogs by 2.5 games in the wild card race. The Wingnuts rank first in the American Association in hitting (.296), first in pitching (3.37), and tied for first in fielding (.977). The RailCats are 10th in the league in batting (.269), third in pitching (4.00), seventh in defense (.974). The Wingnuts are 3-4 against the RailCats this season after dropping two of three at US Steel Yard in late-May and then splitting a four-game set at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in mid-June. The teams have a fourth head-to-head series scheduled for next week in Gary, IN.

TONIGHT'S STARTERS: In game one, the Wingnuts go with right-hander Chris Smith who is 8-3 with a 3.58 ERA in 16 starts. Smith ranks tied for fifth in the American Association in wins, tied for 12th in ERA, and tied for third in strikeouts (96). Smith picked up a win at Rockland last Wednesday, allowing two earned runs on just two hits over 7.0 IP. Smith is 4-0 with a 3.43 ERA at home this season in six starts. Smith has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 11 of 16 starts. Smith has walked two or fewer batters in 11 of 16 starts and has walked three or fewer batters in 15 of them. Smith has pitched at least 6.0 innings in 15 of 16 starts and has pitched at least 5.0 innings in all of them. Smith has pitched into the seventh inning in each of his last nine starts. Over his last eight starts, Smith is 6-0 with a 2.37 ERA (15 ER, 57.0 IP) with 54 strikeouts. Smith is 1-1 against the RailCats this season with a 3.23 ERA in two starts.

Prior to this season, Smith last pitched in 2011 for the Triple-A Pacific Coast League's Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle Mariners). Smith made 50 Major League relief appearances with the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers from 2008-2010. Prior to this season, his last start came on April 25th, 2009 with Boston's Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket in which he allowed one hit over 6.0 shutout innings to earn a win vs. Syracuse. In 2012, Smith was an assistant coach at his alma mater, the University of California, Riverside.

Smith entered 2013 with a 42-39 career record with 61 saves and a 4.02 ERA in 10 professional seasons. During that span, Smith averaged 7.5 strikeouts against just 2.5 walks per nine innings in 771.0 career innings. Smith was drafted by the Red Sox in the 4th round in 2002 out of the University of California, Riverside. In addition to his time in the Majors, Smith has six years of experience at the Triple-A level, and has spent parts of four others in Double-A. In 2010, Smith saved 26 games for the Nashville Sounds, which led the Pacific Coast League, and ranked second overall at the Triple-A level.

The RailCats go with right-hander Morgan Coombs who is 4-2 with a 5.49 ERA in 11 starts and five relief appearances. Coombs last pitched on Wednesday vs. Kansas City, allowing four earned runs on six hits in 4.2 IP while taking a no-decision. The RailCats won the game 9-4. Coombs is 2-2 with a 7.63 ERA on the road this season in seven starts. Coombs has allowed four or fewer earned runs in eight of 11 starts. Coombs has pitched at least 5.0 innings in seven of 11 starts. Coombs has walked three or fewer batters in eight of 11 starts. Coombs has faced the Wingnuts twice this season in relief, allowing zero runs in 2.0 IP. Coombs made one start against the Wingnuts last season, allowing one hit over 6.1 shutout innings in a victory on June 11th .

Coombs is in his second season of professional baseball and was a true rookie for the RailCats last season. Coombs is 10-11 in his career with a 5.46 ERA in 38 games, 32 of them starts. Coombs played college baseball at Ball State University and was 4-4 with a 3.46 ERA as a senior in 2011.

In the nightcap, Wichita goes with right-hander Justin Klipp who is 6-2 with a 3.82 ERA in 11 starts and one relief appearance. Klipp picked up a win at Rockland last Thursday, allowing four earned runs on eight hits in 6.0 IP. Klipp is 2-0 with a 3.94 ERA at home this season in two starts. Klipp has allowed three or fewer earned runs in seven of 11 starts and has allowed more than four earned runs in just one of them. Klipp has walked one or zero batters in 10 of 11 starts and has not walked more than two batters in any of them. Klipp has pitched at least 6.0 innings in nine of 11 starts and has pitched at least 5.0 innings in 10 of them.

Klipp was purchased from the United League's Edinburg Roadrunners on June 9th where he was 2-1 in three starts with a 1.24 ERA. Klipp had 36 strikeouts in just 21.1 IP while allowing only 18 hits. Klipp had a pair of 14-strikeout games while with Edinburg.

Klipp is a 28-year old true rookie who has recovered from a pair of back injuries. Klipp played college baseball at Cal State Fullerton from 2006-07, going 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA in 37.2 IP as a senior. Klipp was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 22nd round in 2007, and was also selected by the Texas Rangers in the 29th round out of Calabasas High School in Calabasas, CA.

The RailCats counter with right-hander Stephen Hiscock who is 1-2 with a 3.40 ERA in seven starts. Hiscock took a no-decision at Lincoln Friday, allowing one earned run on three hits in 7.1 IP. The RailCats lost the game 2-1. Hiscock is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA on the road this season in two starts. Hiscock has allowed two or fewer earned runs in five of seven starts and has allowed more than four earned runs in just one of them. Hiscock has walked two or fewer batters in all seven of his starts. Hiscock has pitched at least 5.0 innings in all seven of his starts. Hiscock took a loss against the Wingnuts on May 22nd at US Steel Yard, allowing five runs, four earned, on seven hits in 5.0 IP. Lifetime against the Wingnuts, Hiscock is 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA (11 ER, 18.1 IP) in three starts and one relief outing.

Hiscock is 11-13 with a 3.73 ERA in four professional seasons over 91 games, 26 of them starts. Hiscock signed with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 out of Rollins College in Winter Park, FL and reached Low-A Bowling Green in 2011. Hiscock has averaged 3.0 walks per nine innings in his professional career. Last season, Hiscock was 6-6 for the RailCats in 19 starts and six relief appearances and ranked fifth in the American Association with a 3.22 ERA.

RODRIGUEZ NAMED BATTER OF THE WEEK: Wingnuts' DH John Rodriguez was named the American Association's Batter of the Week on Monday. In seven games in which the Wingnuts were 6-1, Rodriguez was 12 for 27 (.444) with three home runs and 13 RBI. Rodriguez is Wichita's fourth Batter of the Week honoree this season and the sixth Wingnuts player to earn league honors.

ROSTER NOTES: The Wingnuts released outfielder Jonathan Davis and right-handed pitcher Ryan Scoles on Monday.

HOOPER FIVE FOR FIVE: The Wingnuts won their 51st game of the season on August 6th at Rockland, clinching a winning season under manager Kevin Hooper for a fifth time in five years. Hooper is 277-196 (.586) since taking over the club in 2009 and has guided the Wingnuts to three playoff berths. Hooper's .586 winning percentage is the highest among American Association managers over the last five years. His 277 wins also rank first during that stretch. Hooper was a member of a team that made the playoffs in eight different seasons over his 10-year playing career. Hooper was also a member of Wichita State University's College World Series team in 1996. The Shockers reached the NCAA tournament in all four of Hooper's collegiate seasons, and posted a composite .815 winning percentage.

COMPETITIVE HOME STRETCH: The Wingnuts are down to their final 19 games of the 2013 regular season. As of Tuesday, five of Wichita's final six series are against American Association playoff contenders. Wichita hosts Gary SouthShore and Fargo-Moorhead during a six-game homestand. The RailCats trail the Wingnuts by 8.5 games in the Central Division and lead the wild card race by 2.0 games over the Lincoln Saltdogs. The RedHawks currently lead the North Division by 7.5 games over the Winnipeg Goldeyes. Next week, the Wingnuts travel to Gary SouthShore before returning home for a three-game series against the Grand Prairie AirHogs. Grand Prairie is tied with Laredo for first place in the South. The Wingnuts then travel to Lincoln for a four-game set before finishing the season at home versus Kansas City.

ROAD WARRIORS: The Wingnuts finished their annual NBC road trip with an 11-5 record. At 26-16 away from Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, the Wingnuts have clinched a winning record on the road for a second straight year. Wichita's first winning record was in 2012 (27-22).

NIEVES PACING THE LEAGUE: Wingnuts' third baseman Abel Nieves leads the American Association in batting average (.370). Wichita has had a player win the batting title in three of its first five seasons. Kevin Hooper won by 40 points in 2008 at .373, Greg Porter topped the league with a .372 mark in 2009, and Jake Kahaulelio finished first with a .372 average in 2012. Nieves had a 19-game hitting streak from June 8th -26th (38 for 76, .500) which ranks tied for the second-longest in team history (Greg Porter 2009 and Jorge Delgado 2010). The team record is held by Josh Horn, who hit safely in 20 consecutive games from August 29th, 2009 through June 5th, 2010. Nieves finished second in the Frontier League in batting average last year, hitting .320 for the Joliet Slammers. Nieves reached the Triple-A level three times with the Los Angeles Angels' organization.

KHOURY SETTING THE TABLE: Wingnuts' shortstop Ryan Khoury has reached base in 72 of 80 games this season with a hit, walk, or hit by pitch. Khoury reached base in 87 of 100 games in 2012, and was named the American Association's Defensive Player of the Year. Khoury also ranked in the top-four in the league in runs scored, walks, and stolen bases. On June 26th vs. Laredo, Khoury missed his first game since joining the Wingnuts last year. Including the postseason, Khoury had started 145 consecutive games both at shortstop and in the leadoff spot, and missed just five total innings in the field during that stretch. Prior to June 26th, the last time a Wingnuts' player other than Khoury started at shortstop was September 4th, 2011 when Josh Horn started Game Four of the Division Series vs. Grand Prairie. Jimmy Mojica was the last Wingnuts' player to bat leadoff, which was also on September 4th, 2011.

ZIEGLER CLEANING THE TABLE, WINGNUTS' NEW HOME RUN KING: Wingnuts' first baseman CJ Ziegler is second in the American Association in home runs (22) and ranks first in RBI (79). On August 8th at Rockland, Ziegler set a franchise single-season record with his 22nd home run of the season, besting Kelly Hunt and Greg Porter who each hit 21 home runs in 2009. In the opener of a double header vs. St. Paul on June 14th, Ziegler hit his ninth home run of 2013 and his 27th in a Wingnuts' uniform over the last two years, passing Ryan Patterson (2010-11) for the most in franchise history. Ziegler is only the third player in team history to reach the 20 home run plateau. Ziegler tied a Wingnuts' single-game record with seven RBI on June 24th vs. Laredo. Last season, Ziegler ranked tied for third in the American Association with 18 home runs in just 58 games played. Ziegler has helped his team reach the playoffs in each of his first five professional seasons.

POWER AND SPEED: The Wingnuts offense has benefited from a rare mix of power and speed. Wichita ranks first in the American Association with 90 home runs and first with 109 stolen bases. Wichita led the American Association with 86 home runs in 2009, which stood as a franchise single-season record until this year. The Wingnuts have never led the league steals. Their franchise-best for stolen bases is 150 set in 2012.

STINGY ARMS: The Wingnuts' pitching staff ranks first in the American Association in opponents' batting average at .234. Anthony Capra ranks first among active starting pitchers at .208. Chris Smith ranks second at .225. Junior Guerra is ninth at .254. Ryan Hinson, who was recently purchased by the Atlanta Braves, ranks first overall at .193.

PITCHING STRONG: The Wingnuts rank first in the American Association with a 3.37 team ERA. The Wingnuts ranked first in ERA in 2009 and 2010 while finishing third in 2011.

SWINGING STRONG: The Wingnuts rank first in the American Association with a .296 team batting average. Over the last two seasons, the Wingnuts have finished first and second respectively in the league batting race.

GLOVE WORK: The Wingnuts are tied for first in the American Association with a .977 fielding percentage. Wichita has led the league in defense in three of their first five years of existence (2008, 2009, 2012), and finished second in 2011. The Wingnuts hold the American Association record for team fielding percentage at .980, which they accomplished in both 2009 and 2012.

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: The Wingnuts are 180-103 (.636) all-time at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. It is the highest home winning percentage for any American Association team since the Wingnuts began play in 2008.

SCORELESS BALL: The Wingnuts have posted seven shutouts as a team this season. The franchise record for shutouts in a single season is nine, set in both 2010 and 2011.

COMPLETE ME: The Wingnuts' pitching staff ranks tied for first in the American Association with six complete games. Wichita's club record for complete games in a single season is seven, set in both 2009 and 2010.

TOUGH LOSSES: Of the Wingnuts' 26 losses this season, 14 have been by one run, three by two runs, and three by three runs. Wichita has held a lead at some point in 14 of their 26 losses.

GUERRA PROTECTING THE HOME FRONT: Wingnuts' right-hander Junior Guerra has excelled when pitching at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Guerra is 11-3 with a 2.93 ERA (42 ER, 129.0 IP) all-time in Wichita over 18 starts.

'J-ROD' REACHES MAJOR MILESTONES: Wingnuts' DH John Rodriguez hit a two-out, three-run home run in the bottom of the second inning on July 8th vs. Amarillo for the 1,500th base hit of his 17-year professional career. The home run also have Rodriguez 902 career RBI. On July 18th vs. Lincoln, Rodriguez set the Wingnuts' franchise record for RBI (126) with a two-out, RBI double in the bottom of the fifth inning. Josh Horn (2009-11) held the previous team record with 125 RBI.

KHOURY BREAKS TEAM STEALS RECORD: Wingnuts' shortstop Ryan Khoury set a franchise record with his 47th stolen base on July 6th vs. Amarillo. Josh Horn (2009-11) held the previous record with 46. Last year, Khoury established a Wingnuts' single-season record with 37 stolen bases, surpassing current manager Kevin Hooper's mark of 34 set in 2008.

BACK-TO-BACK: John Rodriguez and CJ Ziegler hit back-to-back home runs on consecutive pitches in the bottom of the third inning in game one of a double header on Friday, June 14th vs. St. Paul. They were the first back-to-back home runs for the Wingnuts since July 26th, 2011 when Josh Horn and Brent Clevlen accomplished the feat vs. Fargo-Moorhead. Ziegler and Clevlen homered on back-to-back pitches on Monday, June 24th vs. Laredo, while Clevlen and Abel Nieves hit back-to-back home runs on August 8th at Rockland.

GRAND SLAM TIME: On Tuesday, June 11th at Winnipeg, Abel Nieves hit the Wingnuts' first grand slam home run since August 27th, 2011 when Juan Richardson hit a bases loaded 'big fly' in a 19-2 rout at El Paso. Wichita hit .309 as a team with the bases loaded in 2012, and was hitting .400 with the sacks full going into June 11th of this year, but had gone 126 consecutive games without a grand slam. CJ Ziegler hit the Wingnuts' second grand slam of 2013 on June 28th vs. Sioux City. Jake Kahaulelio smacked the first walk-off grand slam in team history on July 23rd at Amarillo.

ALUMNI REPORT: RHP Matt Nevarez (2011-12) has a 2.31 ERA for the Double-A Southern League's Montgomery Biscuits (Tampa Bay) with 13 strikeouts in 11.2 IP. RHP James Hoyt (2012) was recently promoted to the Double-A Southern League's Mississippi Braves (Atlanta) and has a 2.77 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 26.0 IP. Hoyt posted a 4.89 ERA with 72 strikeouts in just 49.2 IP earlier this year for the High-A Carolina League's Lynchburg Hillcats. LHP and Wingnuts' co-owner Nate Robertson (2012) has a 3.43 ERA in 44.2 IP for the Triple-A Pacific Coast League's Round Rock Express (Texas). RHP Jon Link was purchased by the Detroit Tigers on June 19th and went 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA in five starts for the Double-A Eastern League's Erie SeaWolves. Link was recently promoted to Triple-A Toledo and is 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in three starts and four relief appearances. LHP Ryan Hinson was purchased by the Atlanta Braves on July 11th and is 2-2 with a 2.13 ERA in six starts for the High-A Carolina League's Lynchburg Hillcats.

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